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SP Alejandro Reti

Alejandro Reti, MD, Senior Director of Population Health, Premier Inc.

Hiding in the buzz around the Affordable Care Act’s delivery system reforms is a provision affecting every nonprofit hospital in the country. This provision requires nonprofit hospitals to conduct triennial community health needs assessments (CHNAs) to justify their tax-exempt status and participate in many federal programs.

Though CHNAs haven’t been in the spotlight, they’re playing a big part in population health management, helping to support many of key delivery system reforms. They’re designed to help providers target, set and support their community’s health improvement priorities so they can appropriately allocate resources.

But many of today’s CHNAs lack objective, complete data and the ability to analyze it. They’re driven by a limited number of static, county-level indicators, such as causes of death or reasons for hospitalization, and require manual management of large data sets from various sources.

As a result, providers may lack the evidence-based data and criteria needed to identify vulnerable sub-populations and appropriately prioritize their community’s health issues. And further, these efforts are typically segregated from more direct programs managing high risk patients.

But things are changing. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Premier Inc. are collaborating to unlock new and meaningful ways to improve population health through an effort combining:

  • UNC Charlotte’s academic expertise and unique community health technology
  • The front-line experiences of healthcare providers nationwide
  • The PremierConnect Enterprise business intelligence and enterprise-wide analytics platform, powered by IBM software and hardware

Clinical, geographic and other community-level data sets will be housed in the PremierConnect Enterprise cloud-based data warehouse to enable more timely and interactive review and use. By having this data in one place, providers will be better equipped to develop and track improvements targeting public health resources to interventions that truly benefit communities and individuals in need.

These are the types of population health management capabilities are central to successful new care models, such as accountable care organizations.

Unlike common CHNAs, the UNC Charlotte/Premier solution can help providers better identify, understand and predict disparities in care by mining big data from disparate sources such as:

  • Clinical and event-level data, extracted from electronic health records, to measure episodes of disease, utilization, cost of care and clinical outcomes.
  • Community data, allowing for community segmentation based on demographics like race, age, obesity, immunizations, transportation access or primary care coverage.
  • Geographic data, accessible at the zip code, county, regional, state and national levels to allow for comparisons to other communities.

And let’s not forget, collaboration is key to success. Catholic Health Partners (CHP), Ohio’s largest health system, is the first provider to use this solution. CHP is also part of the Data Alliance Collaborative (DAC),  launched last summer by Premier and IBM. The DAC is an application development “sandbox” for providers to co-develop and share knowledge and assets that accelerate information-driven healthcare.

“Meeting the health needs of communities is an ongoing process that can and should be built into everyday operations,” says CHP’s Director of Clinical & Business Intelligence J.D. Whitlock.

For hospitals and health systems, this isn’t just about submitting an assessment required by the federal government. It’s about working every day to ensure the communities they serve have access to the high quality care they need, and the ability to receive it.

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